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old age
new life
Anna Chaplaincy
Great Yarmouth

May 2021 - Old Age, New Life

Perhaps I shouldn’t admit it, but sometimes I feel anxious about getting older.

I worry about my health, losing the people I care about, how I will cope on my own, whether I will have enough money to live on. I’m sure these are genuine challenges for many older people (as well as many younger people). But seeing old age through the lens of my anxieties is like using reading glasses to try and look into the distance. The Bible on the other hand helps us to view aging with a less distorted focus. It places a high value on people who have lived a long time and seen much of the world, challenging us to listen to their wisdom and respect them (Leviticus 19:32).

As I’ve thought about this, the testimonies of two Biblical characters have come to mind. These women, one in the Old Testament, one in the New Testament, became pregnant in their later years. Sarah, the wife of Abraham became pregnant when she was in her nineties, and gave birth to Isaac. In the New Testament we read about Elizabeth, the cousin of the virgin Mary, who gave birth to John in her old age. I don’t think we are intended to respond to these accounts by praying for pregnancy for all the elderly women we know – and I doubt they would thank us if we did! But I do believe that through these two examples God is communicating something of his attitude to people who are advanced in years.

Firstly, God can do new things through people in later life. In spite of being unable to conceive throughout the rest of their lifetimes, these two women were able to experience motherhood for the first time in their old age. In these cases God quite literally brings new life to them, and it reminds us that God never gives up on us throughout our lifetimes and can always surprise us.

Secondly God has a purpose for older people and wants to partner with them in His plans. Sarah became mother not only to Isaac, but through him to the whole nation of Israel. Elizabeth’s son John grew up to become John the Baptist who heralded the arrival of Jesus, the Son of God.

Finally, God never forgets the elderly, and always keeps His promises even when it seems unlikely. Abraham laughed when God told him that Sarah would have a child, and Zechariah even challenged the angel Gabriel about the possibility of his wife Elizabeth giving birth. And yet God’s promises to both these women was fulfilled. Through the long years of infertility and cruel social judgement, perhaps Sarah and Elizabeth questioned whether God had forgotten them. But He proved to them that He would never leave them or forsake them.

Ministries such as Anna Chaplaincy (www.annachaplaincy.org.uk) are powerful because they acknowledge the challenges and anxieties of advancing years and seek to walk alongside people in these. But at the same time they seek to celebrate the potential of old age and help individuals to explore God’s plans and purposes for them. In my times of anxiety about getting older, I’m going to remember Sarah and Elizabeth and ask that God will make me a bearer of new life and blessings in my old age.

Anna Heydon, Imagine Norfolk Together, Great Yarmouth